Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

Article #1555 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-17-2005
Posting Date: 11-14-2005
Directed by John English and William Witney
Featuring Tom Tyler, Frank Coghlan Jr., William ‘Billy’ Benedict

When an scorpion relic is discovered in an ancient tomb, a man is given the ability to turn into a superhero to prevent its use for evil purposes.

This serial is often considered one of the best ones ever made, and I think it earns its plaudits. I think it may be the only time that Republic actually gave its central hero super powers rather than just a cool costume, and it has an interesting effect in that it cuts down on the lengthy fight scenes; when the hero can dispatch the villains with a single punch, it has a way of streamlining the fights. It also does a number of things right; the comic relief character, though he plays a major part in the proceedings, is used for comic purposes only sparingly, and he totally avoids being annoying. The Scorpion is a very effective villain, each episode is very well done and makes good use of Captain Marvel’s powers, and it avoids lame cliffhangers. This serial manages to be equally fun throughout its length; it may be the only time when, after watching the final episode, that I wished it had gone on for a few more.

Kiss Me Quick! (1964)

Article #1554 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-16-2005
Posting Date: 11-13-2005
Directed by Peter Perry
Featuring Frank A. Coe, Max Gardens, Althea Currier

An emissary named Sterilox from the Buttless Galaxy arrives at the laboratory of Dr. Breedlove to find the perfect female specimen to take back with him.

Yes, it’s another nudie. It’s filled with repetitive scenes of women undressing or lolling around in states of undress, and it also features bad jokes and double entendres. The odd thing is that the bad jokes and double entendres are actually pretty good this time around, and the movie is stuffed so full of them that it manages to hold the interest. There’s also a Frankenstein monster, a vampire and a mummy in the mix (plus a reference to a wolfman as well). The character of Sterilox is played as a movie-long imitation of Stan Laurel, while Dr. Breedlove is performed vocally as an imitation of Bela Lugosi with a Peter Lorre laugh. A talking skull is given the voice of Peter Lorre himself. If more nudies were this amusing, they might actually be worth watching.

The Killing Kind (1973)

Article #1553 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2005
Posting Date: 11-12-2005
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Ann Sothern, John Savage, Ruth Roman

A disturbed young man is released from prison after having served time for taking part in a gang rape. He returns home to his possessive mother and finds himself haunted by the desire for revenge and his own repressed sexuality.

Director Curtis Harrington’s output is variable, but there’s always a little more dimension to his movies than you might expect. This one is no exception. Sexually repressed psychos were nothing new at this point, but the characters here are so well-developed and the relationships are so striking that it holds the attention. In particular, Ann Sothern gives a wonderful performance as the mother, whose possessive and improper behavior play a big role in driving her son around the bend, but whose love for him is very real indeed. Luana Anders and Peter Brocco are also excellent as a repressed librarian and her dictatorial father; these characters were so memorable that the writers recycled them when they wrote the script for THE ATTIC. John Savage also does well as the psychotic son. Some of the scenes fall flat, especially a dream sequence involving a crib that is so totally lacking in psychological subtlety that it ends up laughable and embarrassing. Nonetheless, these scenes are in the minority, and overall the movie is very good, with a strong, memorable ending.

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)

Article #1552 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-14-2005
Posting Date: 11-11-2005
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali

A coroner is called to a small town to perform an autopsy on a woman who died an unusual death. He discovers a coin buried in her heart, and finds out that her death is tied to strange visions of a little girl.

This movie has a variable reputation. Some people consider it Bava’s best movie, while others feel disappointed. I can understand both reactions. The movie is enticingly mysterious, effectively moody, and uses color wonderfully. It is also full of very striking scenes; in particular, I like a sequence where the hero chases someone through the same room several times in succession only to catch him and discover—well, I won’t give it away. Yet that scene also points to the movie’s problem; ultimately, there’s no satisfactory explanation for it. It’s a case where the mystery element is a lot more compelling than the disappointing and incomplete explanations, and the climax of the movie doesn’t quite deliver the necessary scares. Certainly, the title doesn’t help; it makes it sound for all the world like it’s about a serial killer, and that doesn’t capture it. Still, I think the movie is worth catching for the mood and certain individual moments; only the disappointing ending really holds it back.

Jonathan (1970)

Article #1551 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2005
Posting Date: 11-10-2005
Directed by Hans W. Geissendorfer
Featuring Jurgen Jung, Hans-Dieter Jendreyko, Paul Albert Krumm

A group of villagers plan an assault on the castle of a vampire, and send a man named Jonathan as an advance scout.

This movie has a rating of 4.9 on IMDB at the time of this writing, so I suspect that its reputation is not good. Me, I found it fascinating. It’s not really a version of “Dracula”, but it takes certain key scenes in the first part of the Stoker novel (Jonathan being warned not to enter any locked room, Jonathan being approached by the three female vampires which are then driven away by the Count and then given a baby to satisfy their desires, etc.) that are used as a jumping off point to tell a different story. It’s not an easy story to follow; it’s full of scenes that seem to have little to do with the main story line, and it’s a pretty arty affair. Still, even if I don’t know where individual scenes fit in, I find each scene interesting as separate entities. According to IMDB, this movie is in color, and I suspect I have a faded copy, as only the color red can be seen in many scenes; other than that, it looks as if it’s in black and white. Still, this in itself makes it interesting watching. Political and religious interpretations abound in this one. All in all, I recommend this one, but I suspect you’ll have little use for it if you don’t care for movies like VAMPYR.

The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1972)

Article #1550 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2005
Posting Date: 11-9-2005
Directed by Eric Jeffrey Haims
Featuring Sebastian Brook, Mady Maguire, Donn Greer

The police investigate a gruesome murder at a nurse’s institute. Other murders start occurring, with each of the bodies mutilated with a V-shaped symbol.

Who is the murderer? The mysterious Dr. Cabala, head of the institute, who has a sword hidden in his cane? The disturbed head nurse who was traumatized by the death of her daughter and seeks to “protect” women from the invasions of men? The horny mute in the basement? The doctor who dissects live frogs because a) it’s fun, and b) it impresses the girls? The bitter and scarred cook who calls herself the “Chicken Chopper”? The really big question is: Will you really care? This confusing mishmash of gore (some of it gratuitous; I don’t think frogs have that much blood in them, though I do suspect real frogs gave up their lives for this one), sex (lesbian and hetero), bad narration, shaky camerawork and horrendous acting certainly didn’t trip my trigger. If I were a serial killer, I hope they would give me a cooler theme song than a calliope version of “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”. And if I were a man of science, I wouldn’t deliver the movie’s funniest line, “I’m a man of science. I don’t call a thing a thing until I know it’s a thing.” And one more question: if the movie takes place in the nineteenth century, why do all of the naked women have bikini tan lines?

Jack and the Beanstalk (1952)

Article #1549 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-11-2005
Posting Date: 11-8-2005
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Featuring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Buddy Baer

A babysitter imagines himself living the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Is it a fairy tale or an Abbott and Costello movie? It’s more of the latter, really; if the movie didn’t feature Lou Costello as the hero, I don’t think it would have been of much interest to me as a child, especially since at that time I would have been enormously disappointed by the fact that the giant was nothing more than a really tall guy. It’s not one of their best, relying as it does on mostly physical slapstick, which was never a real strength with Bud and Lou. Still, I think it’s a lot better than SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES. Two observations: I wonder where they got the idea to film the opening and ending sequences in tinted black and white and the middle in color? Also, I couldn’t help but notice that the talking harp is so annoying that no one decides to make off with it during the course of the movie.

Island of Lost Women (1959)

Article #1548 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-10-2005
Posting Date: 11-7-2005
Directed by Frank Tuttle
Featuring Jeff Richards, Venetia Stevenson, John Smith

Two men crash-land on an uncharted island, only to find that the island is home for a nuclear scientist (who wanted to escape the real world) and his three beautiful daughters.

The most amazing thing about this movie is that it takes itself rather seriously given the campy premise. The science fiction element is present, since the scientist does come up with some gadgetry, in particular a gun converted into a flame-thrower. The story is pretty basic; the men land on the island and want to get away. The scientist doesn’t want anyone to find out he’s there, so he plots to keep the men from leaving the island, especially as one of them is a reporter who makes it clear that he will reveal the presence of the scientist on the island. Meanwhile, two of the beautiful daughters become attached to the two men and try to help them, while the third, young and jealous, tries to foil their plans. It’s watchable but silly, and ends with the most ridiculous nuclear explosion since KILLERS FROM SPACE. Still, I can’t help but notice how the plot of this movie bears a certain degree of similarity to that of FORBIDDEN PLANET.

The Invisible Killer (1939)

Article #1547 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-9-2005
Posting Date: 11-6-2005
Directed by Sam Newfield
Featuring Grace Bradley, Roland Drew, Jean Brooks

When a man who was about to spill important information about a gambling syndicate dies unexpectedly of poisoning, police detectives and a spunky girl reporter decide to investigate.

The title implies that there’s an invisible man in this movie, and some of the graphics during the credits do so as well. Don’t you believe it. Just because a killer is invisible doesn’t mean that the killer is something that is usually visible; nor is there anything to specify that the killer is even sentient. What we have here is a fairly lame crime movie with a slight science fiction gimmick to spice up the proceedings a little, and when I say “little”, I do mean “not much at all”. So, unless you’re particularly partial to spunky girl reporters who infuriate their police detective fiances, you can safely skip this one. Included here for slight science fiction content.

Invasion (1966)

Article #1546 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2005
Posting Date: 11-5-2005
Directed by Alan Bridges
Featuring Edward Judd, Yoko Tani, Valerie Gearon

When an old man in his car accidentally hits a man in a strange uniform, he brings the injured man to a hospital. Upon discovering that the injured man is an alien, the staff and residents of the hospital find themselves trapped inside by a force field.

I blow a little hot and cold on British science fiction and horror. I feel they pay a lot of attention to detail, and as a result, they tend to move a little slower than their American counterparts. Sometimes this makes their movies more intriguing, and sometimes it makes them more tedious. Fortunately, this is one of the movies that falls into the former category. It’s fascinating to watch the various parts of the story fall into place; in particular, I love the way the movie illustrates the momentary failure of electricity that marks the arrival of the aliens, and the way the interesting character relationships pull your attention to some points of exposition. The movie does remind you of several other science fiction movies; the idea of humans being caught up in a chase among aliens for a criminal popped up in THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (and would also pop up in THE HIDDEN), the alien being hit by a car reminds me a little of INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, and the fact that for most of the movie one alien is a hospital patient recalls the opening of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. All in all, this one is very effective; only a disappointing ending drags it down.